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XL Group Plc's CEO Discusses Q4 2011 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

So let me begin with some of the unusual items that drove the quarter's results. First, I want to give you the thinking behind the largest item for the financial note, the goodwill charge. Next I want to give you some perspective on expense levels, as you will notice, that expenses ran higher in the fourth quarter. Finally, I need to provide you with some perspective on tax in the quarter and for the year, as without understanding this nuance, one could wrongly conclude that our underwriting was worse that it in fact is.

First, about the goodwill charge. As you well know, the P&C insurance sector is continuing to trade at low valuations, and XL is traded at an even greater discount. When these conditions persist long enough, we must closely examine the goodwill we carry, in relation to the purchase of these operations. In our third quarter 10-Q, we described that this examination was intensified. When the fourth quarter showed higher levels of non-cat loss activity, as had the third quarter. We felt that our assessment of how the market would value these operations had to reflect these recent poor results, even if we remain bullish about our potential over time.

Pete will give you the greater detail, but this is the basic thinking behind our goodwill write-down of $429 million. Note that this has no impact on our calculations related to excess capital. Second as to operating expenses.

Back in June, we said that we thought the fourth quarter of 2010, would have been a good proxy for the 2011 run rate. And so it proved to be. Our 2011 full-year expenses were, in fact, roughly 4x the expense load in the fourth quarter of 2010. But what does this say about 2012? While we generally stay out of the business of giving guidance, for 2012, we expect to come in at the right around about 100 more -- $100 million more in expenditure, than our actual full year 2011 level. But we need to emphasize that going forward, there will likely continue to be meaningful volatility from quarter-to-quarter. Technology spending, for example, can be quite lumpy. And new hires can be very hard to predict in terms of quarterly timing. And it is in those less predictable areas, we are exactly where we are making investments. Investing teams who can grow the business in lines where we find current and future returns appealing, upgrading talent where we have found it to be deficient, and building pricing and product modeling and the technology to deliver it while lowering costs.

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